Rules of the game: SBCC’s premiere play takes on internet addiction

Samantha Demangate and Sabrina Wagner have roles in "Ten Red Kings." Ben Crop photo
Samantha Demangate and Sabrina Wagner have roles in “Ten Red Kings.”
Ben Crop photo

An infrequent but special occurrence in City College Theatre history is on tap with “Ten Red Kings,” the premiere of a brand spanking new play, copyrighted this year. Penned by author Mark Rigney, “Ten Red Kings” takes on Internet gaming addiction and the special camps where parents often send their addicted teens to give them a dose of outdoorsy medicine. It opens at the Jurkowitz Theatre Wednesday.

Sabrina Wagner stars as Margot , a young college freshman who is still grieving the death of her sister. Her one way of coping is spending hours immersed in the fantasy online game World of Warcraft, but her parents have other ideas and she is sent off to a summer camp, and unplugged from her online world. Now she must deal with fellow gaming addicts, counselors and creatures from her virtual world that creep into her reality.

Mr. Rigney, who writes both novels and plays, started his tale as a murder mystery that took place online with real world consequences. But he trashed that, thinking it was shallow. “I started thinking about what it is to spend so much time on a computer in an alternative world, and why you would play so much.”

That included good things too. In initial workshops Mr. Rigney was told that he was too negative about gaming. As an author who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, he said he recognized the mentality of sitting in one room just working away at something and slowly advancing. “It’s served me well as a writer,” he notes.

He also studied the camps like the one in his story, where much more troubled teens compared to his protagonist are sent.

“I write about what bothers me,” Mr. Rigney says about his work. “Otherwise it won’t hold my interest. So my question was: How do you put this down once you’ve picked up something so fun as gaming? How do you walk away and stay sane, happy, true to yourself?”

The director of the play, R. Michael Gros, met Mr. Rigney several years ago at Kentucky’s Humana festival, where playwrights debut and shop their work.

“He’s a delightful guy with an irreverent sense of humor,” Mr. Gros says. They hit it off and Mr. Gros looked at several of his works to see what would work for SBCC (and get the department’s thumbs up). One of the selling points for all concerned was its age-appropriate roles and the number of them, a total of 18.

“One of the things we talk about is how to bring in a younger audience and the answer is to bring in work that mirrors their lives,” Mr. Gros says. “Old plays, as entertaining as they are, really don’t reflect the lives of teens and 20-somethings.”

And it’s been helpful for the student actors as well. There’s still a lot of work to be done with creating characters, but they are all playing their ages for once (as well as their online counterparts like zombies, knights and more). This is a first semester for some of these students, coming straight from high school. Mr. Gros has only worked with two of the actors before; everyone else is new. The cast includes Astrid Alexandersson, Drew Anderson, Waldo Damaso-Figueroa, Morgan Darnall, Samantha Demangate, Colton Fair, Caesar Franco, Lazer Friedman, Dean Garcia, Natalie Ginsberg, Vera Olin, Sara Persson, Amanda Probst, Kendrick Surrell, Hannah Wade and Laksmini Wiyantini.

“That’s what we do here though,” he says. “We are a teaching institution.”

The playwright will be coming in for a residency in the final production week. Usually the writer has long since passed and Mr. Gros says it’ll be a new thing to have Mr. Rigney see what he’s done with his words.

“But we’ve developed such a shorthand over the years I’m not worried,” Mr. Gros says. “We have complete trust.”

“Ten Red Kings”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through November 22.
“Where: SBCC Jurkowitz Theatre, 900 block of Cliff Dr.
“Cost: $8-$16
“Information: (805) 965-5935, www.theatregroupsbcc.com

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